The media is ignoring the violence that's tearing our cities apart

The media is ignoring the violence that's tearing our cities apart
© getty: A protester throws flaming trash toward the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse after breaking through a newly-reinforced perimeter fence on July 22, 2020

The New York Times has introduced a new term into our political lexicon — “rage moms.” Its Aug. 17 story described "fired up" mothers supporting protesters in Portland, Ore., and the caption on the story's photo declared: “The Wall of Moms that emerged from the Portland protests is one of the latest examples of parents engaging in activism to strengthen the social safety net.” Democrats, the Times said, are “counting on” these “rage moms” to help them win in November.

Definitely not your minivan-driving suburban “soccer moms” of the 1990s. But, then, that's not the whole story of what's happening in Portland, either.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post wrote a glowing profile of Portland's protesters, complete with a photo shoot in protest garb and the headline that “protest is what Portland does best.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

These are just two examples of the absurd lengths to which the media has gone to glamorize the violent riots that have emerged from what began as peaceful protests around the country. Portland is not a model of peaceful protests, no matter how the media tries to spin it through a bias of omission of the reality on the ground.

Instead of the coverage often given to Portland by the “Acela Corridor media” (that which is largely based in New York City and Washington, D.C.), here’s the truth: Over the weekend, a man was violently assaulted to the point of being rendered unconscious by a mob that said he tried to run over people. Without social media, no one would likely have any idea that this happened. This is not new; violent rioters are regularly clashing with police officers in Portland. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) has largely stood on the sidelines during this mayhem, but even his call to the crowd that they are “attempting to commit murder” has gotten barely any coverage from the legacy media outlets, except for Fox News.

When the media does cover Portland rioting, it often misses the story. There are the subtle ways, like how CBS News picks up a story about rioting by describing it passively as “riot declared” by police, rather than stating that a literal riot happened. Or you have something more egregious, like the Times story about “Bible burning” and flag burning in Portland. The Times described it as “the first viral hit in Russia’s 2020 disinformation campaign” and claimed the story spread by conservatives was “too good to check.”

In reality? Snopes described the story as “true” — not “Russia disinformation,” as the Times alleged. Several Bibles were, in fact, burned. An American flag was, too, as a crowd cheered. Stating these facts is not “disinformation,” nor does it mean all protesters burn Bibles and American flags. But reporting the truth was mischaracterized by the Times as disinformation.

And this is the crux of the issue: The Times and others in the media are so resistant to describe the violent looting and rioting happening in America as what it is, because they believe it will take away from the legitimate social-justice protests which spurred these latest actions. After the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, tens of thousands of people took to the streets across America in a show of unity against racial injustice; these protests were largely peaceful. Identifying the forces which have co-opted this legitimate cause, and instead turned it from peaceful to violent, does not detract from the cause.

ADVERTISEMENT

In fact, by spinning the violence as part of the protests, the media take away from the cause they are trying to protect. Peaceful protesters don’t assault police officers; they don’t burn or loot buildings. That sort of criminal behavior should be covered, and not ignored — so it can be contrasted with the coverage the media gave to the legitimate protests in June and early July.

It’s no longer relegated to protests. Portland saw more homicides in July than during any month over the past 30 years. And it’s not just Portland, either. In Chicago earlier this month, massive looting was condemned by the mayor but not by forces within Black Lives Matter. On CNN, the incident was barely covered. In New York City, gun violence has skyrocketed — and it’s fallen to sites like the Gothamist and other local outlets to cover it, since the national media has largely ignored it. 

The media refusing to do their job as a fair, neutral purveyor of information has real-world consequences. Following the media’s rosy portrayal of the illegal occupation of Seattle by the CHAZ/CHOP group (which led to violence and other criminal behavior), Seattle’s city government eventually caved to many of their demands. In response, Seattle’s Black female police chief resigned this month. “It really is about the overarching lack of respect for the officers, the men and women who work so hard, day in and day out,” said Chief Carmen Best.

We’re just a few days away from Aug. 28’s “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” march in Washington, being organized by Al Sharpton. Expect a lot of “Acela media” coverage of it. 

But the national media owe it to its readers and viewers to cover the violent offshoots of the peaceful protests, too — in the same way they covered the peaceful protests originally. Omitting the truth does nothing to inform viewers, and it does nothing to help the peaceful protesters’ cause, either.

Steve Krakauer is the founder and editor of Fourth Watch, a media watchdog newsletter. He has been a senior digital producer for CNN, a vice president of The Blaze, and worked previously for Mediaite and TVNewser.